My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
Christ is in our midst! He was, is, and ever shall be.
SPIRITUAL DEATH ACCORDING TO
OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN
"…There is sin LEADING TO DEATH..All un-
righteousness is sin…" (1 John 5:16-17).
Currently, people throughout the world are living in fear, but not just any fear, fear of death. Of course, this is not unexpected since mankind has apostatized from the Source of Life, the Almighty God, and Creator. Mankind has drifted and continues to drift further and further from the Life-Giving Savior Jesus Christ. This is what Saint John says to us, "And this is the testimony that God has given us Eternal Life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son HAS LIFE, he who DOES NOT HAVE THE SON OF GOD DOES NOT HAVE LIFE. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that YOU MAY KNOW THAT YOU HAVE ETERNAL LIFE and that YOU MAY CONTINUE TO BELIEVE IN THE NAME OF THE Son of God" (1 John 5:11-13).
By NOT believing in God, one does NOT believe in eternal life either (‘the life after’). For the unbeliever ‘there is no life after this life here on earth’. For the unbeliever, there is nothing to hope for him, there is ONLY DEATH. This is why death terrifies the unbeliever. For the Christian, the cross, the instrument of torment and death, is transformed by the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon it, the Son of God, the Life-Giving Tree, the instrument of the salvation for ALL OF mankind. "Sin leading to death," that which is beyond our prayer, is wilful, continual disbelief in the Grace of God, the Holy Spirit toward us.
As you know, spiritual death originated immediately following the act of disobedience of Adam and Eve. Saint Gregory Palamas, one of the Great Holy Fathers of the Church states: "The soul of Adam was separated from God and died." In another Homily, this same Holy Father says: "Sin is SPIRITUAL DEATH." We, as Orthodox Christians, believe that bodily death will be done away with when the future Kingdom of God comes, WHILE SPIRITUAL DEATH WILL BE IMPOSED UPON ALL THOSE WHO TRANSGRESSED THE LAW OF GOD HERE ON EARTH AND LEFT EARTH UNREPENTANT." (Saint Symeon the New Theologian) Therefore THE DEATH OF THE SOUL is essentially the presence of sin" (Saint Gregory Palamas). Saint Thalassios writes, " the soul’s disease is an evil disposition, while the death is sin put into actions." Since then, those who are at odds with God ARE SEPARATED FROM GOD. What the unbelievers and all those who have rejected and apostatized from God feel is the horror of death and the end of the present life. Through their apostasy, they rejected the Divine Gifts, and in addition, they are also deprived of all their benefits and are preoccupied with every kind of evil. Thus, spiritual death, or THE DEATH OF THE SOUL, is nothing other than the estrangement of man from God, Who IS LIFE ITSELF (Saint Gregory of Nyssa).
People, as prisoners of sin, resemble those who walk in darkness and "live in a land of deep darkness" Isaiah 9:2. As long as people are slaves to sin, they do NOT have the enlightened mind of the True knowledge of the Lord. They, instead, resemble the dead, even though biological death has not yet come upon them. Without God, the soul is tormented and lives in darkness and desolation. Those who ignore heavenly priority are spiritually DEAD.
This is the death which was denoted by our Savior Jesus Christ when someone who wanted to follow Him requested first permission to go and bury his father. With this request, the Lord Jesus answered: "Leave the dead to bury their own dead" (Saint Matthew 8:22). The "dead", who was to bury the dead, was certainly not dead bodily. Clearly, the dead were those who WERE SPIRITUALLY DEAD. According to Saint Gregory Palamas, the Lord classified as dead also those who were alive, but who "WERE DEAD IN THEIR SOUL."
On another occasion, Jesus said to the Jews: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him Who sent Me, has ETERNAL LIFE; he does NOT come into judgment, but has passed from death to LIFE. Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead WILL HEAR THE VOICE OF THE SON OF GOD, AND THOSE WHO HEAR WILL LIVE" (St. John 5:24-25). In using the words "death" and "dead" here, our Savior Jesus Christ means the spiritual death of sin and the people who are spiritually dead.
The horrific condition of spiritual death applies to those who live after Christ and are slaves to sin. Saint Gregory the Theologian wrote: "There is only one life, seek afterlife. There is one death and it is sin, the destruction of the soul. As for the other matters that certain people take pride in, they resemble dreams that only mock reality and which are false fantasies of the soul." Saint Justin Popovic states: "the evangelical divine truth is this: holiness IS LIFE and SINFULNESS IS DEATH, piety IS LIFE and impiety IS DEATH; FAITH IS LIFE AND DISBELIEF IS DEATH; GOD IS LIFE and the DEVIL IS DEATH. DEATH IS SEPARATION FROM GOD AND LIFE IS RETURN TO GOD AND LIFE IN GOD."
Beyond the agonizing condition of spiritual death, there is still another condition even more painful. If the moral death of the soul is a great evil, which indeed it is for it separates and estranges the soul from God Who is Life, the worst evil of all IS ENDLESS OR ETERNAL DEATH. For everyone who has died spiritually but continues to live bodily, there is still the hope OF REPENTANCE, OF RESURRECTION, and OF SALVATION. One of the Great Holy Fathers of the Church, Saint John Chrysostomos says, "We are all under punishment. But forgiveness has not been excluded from us, nor are we beyond the possibility of repentance. For we are still standing in the arena of the daily struggle for our perfection in Christ, and are ready for the difficult struggles of repentance.." But when we DEPART FROM THIS WORLD "IN SIN" AND UNREPENTANT and fall into the arms of "undying death", then there is no further opportunity for efforts to repent, to be raised from the dead, and for the Light of Christ to shine upon us."
Very few Orthodox Christians contemplate the spiritual death or the death of the soul. The tendency for all people is to be preoccupied with the death of the body and not the soul. There are many people who do not even believe in the existence of the soul and therefore are not concerned about its salvation or eternal life. Orthodox Christians believe that we were given by our Creator a soul and it is this soul that gives life to the body. Biological death is the separation of the soul from the body. Just as we take care of our body throughout our earthly existence, we must also take care of our soul. Just as the body needs nourishment, cleanliness, exercise, protection, medical attention when ill, healing, and rest from labor, so does the soul need spiritual nourishment, Divine grace that is given by God the Holy Spirit, and sanctification that is derived through the Sacraments, specifically the Holy Eucharist which is given "for the remission of sins and life eternal." The Sacrament of reconciliation, cleanliness, and forgiveness is Confession; exercise, through prayer, worship, fasting is the Holy Scripture; protection is by remaining faithful and being a member of the Church of Christ; spiritual medical attention we receive from the "Physician of our souls and bodies," our God and Savior Who heals every bodily and spiritual infirmity. He (Jesus) is the One Who finally grants us everlasting rest and peace. We must also never forget how necessary charity is or ‘works of mercy’ to the salvation of our souls.
It would be a great mistake for any of us to neglect or ignore our sous. It is not the sin that condemns us, but the lack of repentance for sins committed by us. Take care of your body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, and to your IMMORTAL SOUL which gives life to the body. Let the Creator of our souls and bodies bless them and sanctify them by the Grace of the Holy Spirit so that they may inherit Eternal Life in God’s Kingdom. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George